Goals in Conflict: How I Learned to Lose Weight and Run a Marathon with Nutrition

Eating right and training properly go hand in hand. Your food is your fuel to success.

Months 1-3

My Goals: (1) lose 5 percent body fat (2) lose 15 pounds of body weight

Losing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass is very important if you want to improve your running. Excess body fat and body weight places more demand on your joints and will slow you down on the road. As the famous author from Runner’s World, John Bigham, says “The fastest women look like skinny men.”

At the start of my training, I was the heaviest weight I have ever been weighing in at 155 pounds and 33 percent body fat. I should weigh about 130 and an composed of 18-22 percent body fat, according to health standards. My long term goal is to lose 30 pounds and 8 percent body fat by February 14th. I broke the goal down into 3 short term goals, the first being my half marathon on November 10. During the first three months of training, I will configure a diet program that will decrease my body fat by 5 percent and my body weight by 15 pounds.t

The Original Plan: Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it”

I started off following author Gary Taubes’ suggestions in his book “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.” A co-worker said he had found great and quick results with his clients who were using the program, so I decided to try it out. His book explores the myths surrounding weight loss and why the accepted practice of calories in and calories out fails to work for many people. Using scientific evidence, he concludes that rather then focusing on controlling calories, dieters need to focus on controlling their hormones and insulin levels by reducing carbohydrates. According to his plan, the carbohydrates should only come in the form of fibrous vegetables, like spinach, kale, and broccoli. He suggests to eliminate any foods with total net carbs greater than 1 g (Net Carb = Total Carbohydrates –  Fiber).

The Dilemma: Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for marathon training.

I felt beyond exhausted the first few times I tried to complete my weekly long run on Taube’s diet. I felt fine through the first two miles, but as I rounded the fourth and fifth miles, my muscles began to burn, my joints unhinged, and I thought I would have to crawl to make it home. My loyal canine running partner, Caleb, outperformed me and dragged me through my last few miles. For two days following my run, I would then sleep 10 hours, feeling lethargic, cranky, and unmotivated.

The problem was that by not eating carbohydrates, I depleted my glycogen levels before I was finished with my run.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for runners and endurance athletes. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, which your body uses as extra energy during endurance events. Does this mean that you need to indulge in spaghetti and meatballs every night and eat all of the bread in your house? Of course not! It means that as an endurance athlete, you need to consume most of your calories from complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The goal is to give your body enough glycogen throughout your run. A general rule for marathon training is to consume 50-65 percent of calories from complex carbohydrates, 15-25 percent from fat (preferably unsaturated) and 20-25 percent from protein.

The Solution: Cycle in two days of carbohydrates to fuel my long run

Sunday-Tuesday: Gary Taubes low carbohydrate diet

Wednesday: BMR caloric intake and portion control

Thursday: Gary Taubes low carbohydrate diet

Friday-Saturday: Caloric intake and portion control based on my BMR.

A simple way to estimate caloric intake is to visit a calorie calculator online. My health calculator is  at http://www.healthycalculators.com/calories-intake-requirement.php. It allows you to tailor your caloric intake to your age, height, activity level, and provides you with the information you need to maintain weight, lose weight, or gain weight to match your goal. This calculator also provides you with your Basal Metabolic Rate, or the amount of calories your body needs to maintain daily functions. This calculator also breaks down the percentages of calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Based on my profile, my BMR is 1509.89 calories, meaning that is the amount of calories I need to consume to perform daily functions (not including exercise) In order to lose weight 1 pound a week: I need to take in 2868.80, with 55 percent or 1577.84 calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent or 430.32 calories from protein, and 30 percent or 860.64 calories from fat. From this information, I have created several daily menu options that match my requirements. Just knowing the numbers is not enough. It is always important to map out exactly what you will eat to meet your goals.

Lesson Learned

When you have conflicting but interdependent goals, like losing body weight and fat while training for a marathon, it can be difficult to find a solution in one single program. I found two programs that work for me, compiled from a variety of sources. I encourage you to do the same when trying to reach a fitness and nutrition goal. Find programs that work for your lifestyle, preferences, and capabilities. Don’t be afraid to integrate aspects of different programs. Nutrition is truly a process of trial and error, so get creative with your problem solving. Find ways to organize the fast amount of information into a simple, consistent plan. If you are looking for help on creating you’re own nutrition program, please feel free to contact me at emilykovalfitness@gmail.com.


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